A collaborative effort to help the region’s nonprofits, schools, businesses and towns access government stimulus funds for pandemic-related recovery.
This fall, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission joined forces with nine local partner agencies including Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF), to launch Berkshire Funding Focus (BFF). This collaborative initiative aims to help the region’s nonprofits, schools, businesses and towns access government stimulus funds for pandemic-related recovery and rebuilding—fully capitalizing on a once-in-a-generation funding opportunity.
“Advancing equity is an important shared value among all of the partners and will be central to the initiative’s strategies," said BTCF President Peter Taylor, underscoring the two-fold purpose of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA): first, to help communities recover from the pandemic, “especially those hardest hit, and that includes our growing communities of color, as well as others disproportionately affected”; second, to facilitate strategic investments, “to help build our region’s resilience and prosperity in the long run.”
To that end, BFF specifically seeks to support organizations and enterprises led by leaders of color and serving communities of color to access funds, utilize them to recover from pandemic-related challenges and secure resources for strategic investments—in order to bolster resilience, sustainability, and long-term success. A first step in this process is focused outreach and an assessment process to learn from leaders and entrepreneurs of color about priorities within their organizations and businesses. Additionally, the research is seeking to learn what resources and supports could assist BIPOC organizations and businesses in accessing government funding. This assessment is being conducted by Dr. Emily Williams, a consultant with a background in community-based research and government grantwriting.
Taylor went on to cite particular areas of focus at Berkshire Taconic that are aligned with the goals of ARPA, such as increasing educational attainment and economic opportunity, that prompted the foundation to help convene this collective effort—believing that making more information, training and technical assistance available to government grant seekers and combining that with government funding can have an exponential effect on resources available in the region.
“There are going to be tremendous resources available to support career vocational technical education through ARPA,” Taylor said, underscoring the importance of creating conditions in Berkshire County conducive for schools to develop partnerships and incubate new efforts to maximize the dollars available and create a lasting impact.
Berkshire Taconic’s focus on pathways from school to work—aimed at infusing the juncture between high school and the workforce with opportunity for those individuals who don't plan to immediately pursue higher education—endeavors to provide high school students with experiences to better equip them to be productive in the workforce and meet employer demand.
In recognizing the unequal impact the COVID-19 pandemic had throughout the region on community health and economic prosperity, Berkshire Funding Focus is committed to serving the region as a clearinghouse that:
“We’re trying to strengthen the conditions with partners so government stimulus dollars might more readily flow to the region,” said Taylor, pointing to the potential for investments in local students and classrooms; workforce and businesses; entrepreneurs and incubators; plus neighborhoods and downtowns - all of which align with Berkshire Taconic’s four strategic priorities.
Working closely with an Advisory Committee—comprised of 1 Berkshire; BERK-12; Berkshire Bank Foundation; Berkshire Black Economic Council; Berkshire United Way; Health Resources in Action; Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires; and Volunteers in Medicine—the initiative has hit the ground running and is presently providing benefits.
The overarching goal? To build resilient, equitable, healthy and vibrant communities—where all are welcome to live, learn, work and play in conditions that improve their well-being.
NOTE: Visit the Berkshire Funding Focus website to learn about available resources designed to support grant seekers—including a full calendar of workshops and webinars to create strong grant applications and manage funds; a resource library containing guidance on grant writing (including glossaries to help decipher terminology used by grant makers); plus a curated list of currently available grants (which can be sorted by category, topic and audience).
"This is a great opportunity for our communities and the organizations that serve them."
- BTCF President Peter Taylor